How To’s

5 Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read

Graphic Design is one of the most exciting fields to work in these days, and while there are plenty of YouTube tutorials to supplement your graphic design studies, it still pays to read good, old-fashioned, books on the subject.

Graphic Design

Here are some of the books (whether it’s in print or on your e-reader), that every graphic designer or aspiring graphic designer should read:

Thinking With Type
by Ellen Lupton

Perfect for editors, typographers, writers, publishers, and students who want to learn the best use of font for branding and other uses, this beautifully written visual guide provides the latest information on style, font licensing, captions, lining, and details such as the use of small caps or enlarged capitals–all neatly organized in three chapters that are easy to consume. 

A Smile in the Mind
by Beryl McAlhone 

London-based writer McAlhone has a special interest in design that makes this an essential and resourceful book. Highlighting esteemed works from international designers from Japan, Europe, United States, and Great Britain, this entry takes you through hundreds of visuals and illustrations that will no doubt inspire the reader.

Multicolour
by viction:ary

A marvelous source for both amateurs and masters, Multicolour showcases an expansive library of themes, titles, and more. Like many of the books on graphic design, turning each page offers an emotional voyage of color that is as much fun for your eyes as informative for your brain. The palette series includes black & white, gold & silver, neon, and its most recent, pastels.

Logo Modernism (Design)
by Jens Müller

This book focuses on the architecture, art, and product design, of the modernist movement that had its peak from 1940 to 1980. Using around 6000 brand names and their history, Logo Modernism is an incomparable resource for designers, publicists, and brand specialists, as well as those who have a passionate interest in the social and cultural history of 20th century corporation and consumerism. 

Drawing Type: An Introduction to Illustrating Letterforms
by Alex Fowkes

An impressive showcase of the work 72 typography creators who have designed a diverse array of fonts for posters, packaging, boards, and more. At the end of the publication, a notebook can be found suggesting exercises that graphic designers will find incredibly useful.

How to Become a Data Visualization Whiz

The digital revolution is a boon for graphic designers because it is constantly creating new job opportunities that may perfectly fit with one’s passions and daily activities. For instance, the age of static websites with text-only content is long past, and nowadays, there’s a huge focus in UI and UX that make surfing the web an enjoyable, easily comprehensible and interactive experience.

Whether it’s an ad, a movie poster or even an Instagram account, the key to its success lies in its visual aesthetics and data visualization forms an integral aspect of it. Which means there are more opportunities than ever for graphic designers who are whizzes with data visualization. Simply put, data visualization means representing information pictorially or graphically, so as to make it easier to understand and analyze or identify certain patterns. To do this, graphic designers will often work with a team of professionals to gather and interpret statistics.

Suppose your team has collected a whole lot of customer feedback and statistics for a company. You have all the information but just showcasing pages of text at a company meeting won’t help anyone. What you can do is work with your team to turn the data into a clear, coherent, and visually appealing image — perhaps a pie-chart, a graph, an infographic or a map — so that other people viewing it can understand your team’s goal. Data visualization is a team effort to communicate in a fast and effective manner to enable readers to make informed decisions.

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Think of it this way: learning becomes more fun when it’s supplemented with explanatory pictures and videos, right? This is why a power point presentation on a particular topic is way more useful than reading a textbook entry. It’s all about breaking information to bite-sized chunks and representing it pictorially so as to pinpoint certain trends, engage the audience, and get the message across ASAP.

If you’re considering a graphic design career with a focus in data visualization, here are some tips to bear in mind as you build up your skills.

1. Study How Images Work

Look up how images have always been used to represent information, ideas and thoughts — whether it’s ancient cave paintings, Egyptian hieroglyphics, medieval maps and illustrations, or even picture books and graphic novels where there’s a constant interaction between text and image. Next, look up the current trends in infographics or compare the visual representations of a particular topic to its text-only counterpart. Then take a look at what experts in the field have got to say such as Alberto Cairo, Edward Tufte, Max Roser, Mike Bostock and others. Also look at the online data visualization community such as this and this.

2. Cultivate Your Design and Analytical Skills

When it comes to design, choose courses that focus on color theory, branding, visual communications, color perception and data-ink ratio.

Remember it’s not just about being creative or having an aesthetic eye; rather, it’s all about conveying information quickly and efficiently. Master the use of software such as Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw and database-management software such as Microsoft Excel. Learn a bit of programming such as JavaScript and its charting libraries like D3. And finally, take a course in statistical analysis and graphs as well as data analysis and profiling

3. Make You Own Stuff And Get Feedback

And as you read and learn, start making your own stuff as well. Take an infographic that you don’t like and redesign it, or take historical information and statistics and represent them pictorially to make a point.

Offer volunteering and freelancing services. If you work at a company, why not turn some of the company data to graphs and offer constructive feedback that will help the company to improve in a specific area? Share your work with others and repeatedly ask them for opinions — if they understood what you tried to convey and what would have made it easier. Be open to negative criticism as well and be on the look-out for self improvement.

4. Learn to Collaborate

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Collaboration is the key to creating great data visualization. It’s important to remember that data visualization is not a lone endeavor. You will most often work with fellow professionals, clients, and companies to collect and interpret data for specific purposes, and you’ll need to learn to communicate clearly and cooperate effectively with your team to achieve your desired goal. Like any graphic design challenge, data visualization is an opportunity to problem solve. It will be much more fruitful if you learn to collaborate with your teammates who can contribute great information and solutions as you seek the best solution.

Data visualization is a vast field, and before you find your niche, you must have a good grasp of the basics. Be prepared to do a fair bit of independent learning and practice if you’re serious about mastering the skill set for creating awesome data visualization. If you’re enrolled in a graphic design course, try to use those classroom lessons when designing your own pie-charts and infographics as well as read up some pioneering work in the field. If there’s an area you have no knowledge about, consider signing up for an online course or tutorial. And always keep in mind that that both your design and analytical skills are of tantamount importance here.

Ready to learn more about graphic design? Check out NYFA’s graphic design programs!

Freelance, In-House, Agency, Oh My: What Graphic Design Career Path is Right for You?

So you’ve just completed a graphic design course and you’re on the lookout for the right creative job that utilizes your talents. They say being in the design profession is pretty tough, and if you can land a 9 to 5 job that pays most of the bills, you should consider yourself lucky. Armed with a list of job-related websites, advertisements and fancy references, you’re probably planning to say yes to the first offer of acceptance, even if the pay is modest. But the truth is that in order to make the most profitable use of your talents, you need to work with the right people and in the right environment. Your personality and your needs also must be factored in. Counter intuitive as it may seem, a well-paying office gig may not be the best fit for you.

Broadly speaking, once you’re out of graphic design school, you have three options to choose from. The first is working as a freelance designer and you may have already done a fair bit of freelancing as a student. Secondly, there’s the in-house path, where you join a particular organization and work only for them, strictly following schedules and collaborating with your colleagues. And thirdly, there’s the agency option, where you have a creative director mediating between you and your client as you work on several design problem-solving approaches. Each of these career paths, have their pros and cons, and below, we list them out for your consideration…

1. Freelance

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This is most suitable for those whose Muse is a free spirit and who hate the monotony of routines. As a freelancer, you have the complete freedom of choosing your own clients and projects and you’re the one who sets the deadlines and the prices. In short, you work whenever and wherever you want to, and you’re your own boss.

However, the downside to this is that you have to do all the negotiations and client-finding yourself. Freedom can also mean pay inconsistency, and there may be long periods when you’re unable to find suitable work.

Our advice: Always do a bit of freelancing work on the side, even if it’s just pocket money, as it will help you build a portfolio, make quick bucks, and maintain a list of trustworthy clients you can later ask for references. It can be difficult to establish yourself as a full-time freelancer directly out of design school. If freelancing is your goal, consider joining an in-house company or an agency, even if it’s only for six months or a year, to build your portfolio, establish contacts, and build your confidence.   

2. In-House

The in-house design path provides more job security and all the perks that a desk job entails. As a beginner, you have a stable role and a fixed list of responsibilities, and depending on your innovation and team spirit, you may be able to work your way up the ladder — say from being a graphic designer to a senior art director. However, many creative minds feel that a regular office job has the downside of sapping creativity and limiting the time you’ll have to work on your own projects. Depending on where you work, you may also find you won’t get much variety in your work. Nevertheless, in-house design jobs provide important opportunities to hone your skills, grow a sense of trends in the industry, and develop discipline.

Our advice: Even if you don’t immediately love it, working as an in-house designer for a company is crucial to your success. You’ll learn some important survival skills, such as dealing with difficult people, understanding how branding works, and completing assignments on time. We recommend you work in-house for a while, especially as a new graphic designer. If you like it stick to it, and if you don’t, you’ll gain enough experience to help you transition to freelance work or find a place more suited to your creative capabilities.

3. Agency

If you don’t want to handle the hassle of bargaining with your clients and still have enough variety in your work so as not to get bored, working at an ad agency or design studio may be a good fit. You’ll learn to contribute ideas and become a vital part of the design problem-solving team. The ability to collaborate and share responsibility are vital to the success of the young designer. In many cases, direct interaction with the client is minimal. Potential downsides might be that the agency may deduct a part of your earnings, and working 9 to 5 may be very strenuous.

Our advice: This is the best way to gain experience and have a regular source of income. Most agencies have HR professionals to help maximize the potential of the employees, so you’re most likely to get projects suited to your skill level and personality. However, if the monthly paychecks aren’t enough or your stress levels are rising, it’s time to seek work elsewhere.

So, how do you figure out which graphic design career path may be best for you? Before you start out, be clear about your needs and priorities. Is money the most important factor? When are you at your creative best? Do you enjoy collaborations? How good are your interactive skills? And most importantly, how amazing is your portfolio to attract the right type of clients?

If you need money and job security, go for in-house or agency. If you don’t want to make any compromises with your creativity are confident about your list of clients, there’s always freelancing.

Our advice is, once you complete your graphic design program, apply for a job or an internship at an agency so you have an idea of what the market wants and where you stand. Gain suitable experience in-house at a company or two, build your communication and negotiation skills, and build your network of contacts. Most importantly, learn to see your creative work from other points of view. And finally, when you think you have all the right skills and a decent income, you may find it’s the right time to turn to full-time freelancing.

Keep in mind that every graphic designer is different, and these general guidelines are simply meant to help you weigh your options. Happy hunting out there!

Have you found your graphic design career path? Let us know in the comments below! And, if you’re ready to study graphic design, check out our intensive, hands-on programs.

What to Know if You’re Considering a Career in Motion Design

You’ve probably wondered, when you look at an interactive menu on a DVD or a website: who makes this? Or maybe you’ve seen the opening for a video series on your favorite source for news. Who is behind these dynamic graphics? Motion designers.

Motion designers work to make graphics pop through a unique mix of technical knowhow and artistic inspiration, and they get compensated, on average, 53k a year in the New York City area, according to indeed. If this sounds like something that might interest you, then here’s a small guide and introduction to the field. We’ve linked an outstanding design reel above to give you an idea of what the field can achieve. But how can you achieve it?

What Skills do You Need?

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Pluralsight has put together a great guide to what you need to enter this growing field. We’ve linked the article above so you can get a better idea, but the field requires a mix of a few skills. Here’s what you’re going to need:

Animation: A good basis in animation and 3D modeling skills will make all of your enhancements top of the line.

Graphic Design: Of course, “design” is even included the job title for a motion designer. While you are putting your graphics into motion, you do need the a good graphic design education and experience. You’ll also still be working with typography in many cases.

Communication Skills: Looking on indeed.com, you’ll notice that many of the motion design jobs are part of established business like Conde Nast. You’ll need to be able to work on a team to achieve your goals and you’ll need to speak with clients so they know what you can do, what you plan on doing, and how it fits in with their model. And of course, you’ll have to know how to collaborate and make adjustments.

Inspiration: After all, inspiration is what makes any artistic endeavor a success. All the technical facility in the world still needs help from what’s unique about you, about what you bring to the table, and what makes your gears tick.

How NYFA Can Help

NYFA has a number of options to help you develop the tools you’ll need to enter the rapidly growing field of motion design. Our faculty includes several prestigious graphic designers including Sophia Bilynsky, the founder of AlleyCat Design. NYFA has a four year graphic design degree program. There is also a more intensive one year program. The “Type and Motion” course will give you a basis and introduction into the field.  You can also supplement your Motion Design knowledge studying history (“History of Graphic Design”) with Keith Godard, and when you finally get ready to make the big pitch to a client, you’ll be well prepared by the “Portfolio Production and Business Practices” and “Communication Strategies – Branding and Visual Identity.” If you have other questions, the NYFA’s “Graphic Design School” page, linked here, includes contact information, times for open houses, and a link to apply once you’ve decided when you’d like to proceed.

Are you interested in motion design or have extra helpful tips? Let us know in the comments below! And check out NYFA’s programs in graphic design and animation.

A Beginner’s Guide to User Interface Design

User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) Design are rapidly growing fields in the graphic design industry, and may appear quite difficult to break into. These days, just knowing how colour and branding works may not be enough to secure a job; you need to adapt and modify your design skills as per industry requirements. User Interface Design in particular is a very creative and challenging industry and offers the scope of a very rewarding job.

Simply put, UI design basically involves designing user interfaces for software, websites and machines — making navigation as simple and as efficient as possible. Have you ever come across a website and couldn’t find what you were looking for because the layout was cluttered and confusing? Or perhaps you’ve recently switched from a Windows Phone to an Android for increased functionality? In both cases, the UI design played a role in your responses.

So how do you go about being an efficient UI designer? These tips will help you out:

Learn Graphic Design and Typography

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This goes without saying, but a strong foundation on how the visual medium works — its signs and semiotics — will go a long way. Don’t aim for artistic brilliance, but rather focus on how design can be best manipulated to serve utilitarian needs. Focus on courses that cover topics such as branding, logo design, product design and advertisements. Also sign up for a separate typography course, which will help you choose the right fonts and teach you how to balance the different elements on the screen.

Clarity Is Very Important

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Remember that for whatever you design, the user must find the product very easy to use and not face any hassle or confusion. The interface should be clear, very easy to understand and navigate, and preferably interactive. Also, you should design in such a manner so as to grab the user’s attention and keep it. And finally there shouldn’t be any bugs or glitches in the system.

Research Is Key

Once you understand the basic principles of a successful user interface, you’ve done half the job. The next stage is research, where you have to keep in mind the company or brand goals as well as the customer’s needs and expectations. Thus the final design must not only be effective but also have a personality unique to the brand you designed for. For instance, an iPhone is very easy to use, can anticipate the user’s needs, and has a distinctive look.  

Conduct Tests On Actual People

Once you have designed a prototype, conduct tests on real people. Ask them to interact with the interface you’ve made, record their responses and check for any errors or inconsistencies. Ask them repeatedly if they’ve faced any problems or if they have any ideas as to how to make it better. Remember, this feedback is possibly the most important step in making a successful user interface.

Once you’ve mastered graphic design as well as understood the philosophy and principles behind UI, it’s time to build up your practical experience. Soon enough, as your portfolio improves, you’ll be landing high-paying gigs and ambitious projects as well.

Interested in studying graphic design? Check out NYFA’s graphic design programs!

How to Create a Graphic Design Resume

In this day and age, the likelihood of landing your dream job can depend a lot on your resume. As a graphic designer, you’re supposed to be creative, original and hard-working by default. Not only must your CV list your skills and achievements, but the CV itself should be very well designed with a clear typography. So if you’re going to submit an 8.5 x 11 print-out of an MS Word Doc, you might as well not even apply. However, putting together a killer resume is not as hard as it sounds. These tips can help get you started.

1. Adapt The Resume To Your Needs

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Have a basic resume always ready, but make sure you customize it when you’re applying for a job. Keep it brief and — above all — keep it relevant. Ask yourself: Who is their ideal candidate and how can I assume that role? Which skills of mine are best suited for the job? You may be a pro at Adobe After Effects, but if the job calls for photo editing, highlight your skills in relevant software. In other words, maximize your potential of landing the job by focusing on the areas that present you as the perfect candidate.

2. Show Off Your Creativity And Personality

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Be unconventional. Make use of blank space. If you’re sending a physical resume as opposed to a soft copy, use high quality paper. Be innovative in terms of packaging. Do you want it folded? Do you want it as a brochure or a leaflet? If you’re emailing it, consider designing your resume as an infographic. In other words, your future employer should get an idea about your superb skills and the kind of person you are, even before glancing at your portfolio.

3. Tick Off These Boxes

Don’t forget to include the standard stuff, and make it very very clear and easy to find. This includes your name and contact info, past job and internship experience, software skills, awards, education, capabilities and interests. You may also include a personal statement. And while you’re at it, pay attention to the typography. Good typography is essential. It is the first thing a potential employer will look at. If the type is very good, they will most likely want to meet you. If the type is weak, even if you are qualified, they will not want to meet you.

4. Don’t Lie/Plagiarize/Forget To Spell-Check

Even if you feel you’re under-qualified, don’t lie or copy someone else’s design template. Plagiarism is unacceptable, and many employers have methods of checking out your claims and credentials to make sure you are original, and if you lie or bluff through your achievements, remember they may check references or ask you to demonstrate something that you lied about doing. Don’t ever compromise on your personal integrity. And yes, even if your English skills aren’t up to the par with your design skills, try not to give that impression. Ask a friend or co-worker to proofread your CV before handing it in. An unintended spelling error may earn you a thumbs down from the company.

Above all, continue to work on your resume. Remember, you are always evolving, both as a designer and as a human being. Your resume should reflect that, albeit in an aesthetically-pleasing manner. Good luck!

Interested in learning more about pursuing graphic design? Visit NYFA’s Graphic Design School today.

What is Color Psychology and How to Use it in Your Graphic Design

Colors affect us. Whether we’re picking a dress for a party, buying a gift or shopping for daily groceries, we often make instant decisions based on color. Certain colors have particular meanings in specific contexts which we have grown accustomed to — the red for traffic lights is different from the red that splatters Valentine’s Day products. Similarly, the color green is used simultaneously in marketing related to finances as well as in environmental activism. But color psychology is more than about knowing your client’s favorite color or using stereotypical color associations when branding or marketing products. It is about using certain colors to effectively market a brand and subtly persuade the customer to trust it, thereby influencing their purchasing decisions.

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As per a 2006 study, 90 percent of our instant judgments about products are based on color alone, which makes it very important to align the brand’s identity and personality with an appropriate color. But doing so can be difficult, because not only does a particular color have a myriad of meanings and associations (sometimes even contradictory ones), but also because an individual’s response to a color is shaped by their subjective personal experiences.

Keeping in mind these difficulties, we bring you some helpful tips on how to effectively use color psychology in your graphic design projects.

1. Learn about color theory: Colors don’t exist in isolation. Unless you’re working strictly in black and white, chances are you’ll be mixing different colors or even similar shades of colors in your design work. Color theory will teach you about primary, secondary and tertiary colors and guide you to the most effective specific color combinations. Whatever you’re designing, choosing the right combination of colors from a color wheel, will go a long way in making your design effective and eye-catching.
To aid with this, there are online resources, like this great color wheel tool from Canva, to help you use color theory when designing.

2. Research on colors used by similar brands: Knowing the traditional associations of a particular color may be useful, but it’s more effective to research what colors that brands similar to the one you’re designing for, use. For instance, did you notice that Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and Vimeo all use blue in their logos? Or that both Nikon and National Geographic use yellow in branding? So whatever project you’re working on, take a look at the colors that major brands use and then you can decide whether you’ll stick to the same color or do something very different.

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3.  Keep in mind the “Isolation Effect”: Items that “stick out like a sore thumb” are more likely to be remembered. In other words, make sure your product is eye catching. So when designing, keep in mind the environment and lighting of the place where it will be displayed. So think of ways in which you can ensure the colors of the product can harmoniously blend with the surroundings as well as be noticed by the average customer.

4. Use descriptive color names: This is particularly important if you’re doing work in the fashion or cosmetics industry, where the descriptive name of a color can work wonders. For example, sky-blue is preferable to light blue, just as mocha works way better than brown. Think of the associations and metaphors you want a particular color to evoke and use creative and unusual names accordingly.

5. Don’t ignore your personal judgment: Don’t put so much emphasis on theory that you end up ignoring your practical reality. If for instance your research tells you that yellow is the best color, but your own response to it is that the color won’t work as well as say orange, follow your own judgment. Place yourself in a customer’s shoes and think accordingly. In other words, assess the effectiveness of your design from multiple angles and pay attention to your own intuition. As perception to color is very psychological, it is very very important that you don’t ignore your own hunches.

In short, although color psychology can appear ambivalent at first, is very important in graphic design and using it well, takes practice and you might have to do it in a trial and error way. But once you get the hang of it, it will pay off excellently!

Are you interested in graphic design? Learn more about the New York Film Academy’s Graphic Design School.

4 Common Mistakes that Beginner Graphic Designers Make

So you’re fresh out of design school and looking for a professional job to show off your skills? Or have you been tinkering with Photoshop and Corel Draw long enough to realize you can make a career out of designing things? If you’re a beginner in the big bad world of graphic design, there will be some mistakes that you’re bound to make (or are perhaps making at this very moment) that may leave you wondering why your career hasn’t kickstarted already. And so we’re here to help you avoid some very common mistakes and improve your skills as a designer.


1. Abusing Photoshop Tools and Trying Too Many Things At Once: So you’ve learnt all the nitty-gritties of Photoshop and can rattle off the shortcut keys with ease. But guess what: You’re absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge, and when you sit down to design a flyer or logo you experiment with all the tools … and the result looks like a child’s collage.
Quick Fix: Set challenges for yourself. Make a list of the tools you use the most and try to design something without using any of them. Restrict yourself to using a fixed number of layers or a black and white color palette. Not only will that make you creative, but it will save you the trouble of trying everything at once to see what works best.

2.  Making Poor Fonts and Typography Choices: You’ve discovered the world of free fonts and you’ve downloaded just too many brushes and the birthday card you’re supposed to design looks way too comical. Or the logo of a company just doesn’t look professional enough. Chances are you’ve gone on a font overload.
Quick Fix: Typography is a whole new field and if you’re not good at it, take a separate course to understand the fundamentals of how it works. Gaining some knowledge of calligraphy also might help. Once again, try to design with standard fonts and, if you’re using something fancy, limit yourself to one fancy font. Follow the aesthetics of simplicity and minimalism when it comes to fonts and you should be fine.

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3.  Relying More on Software Than on Your Originality: You have the latest versions of all the software installed in your computer and — sometimes even for a simple project — you usually end up using more than three programs to design something. And then you’re out of creative juices.
Quick Fix: Realize that design software is a means to an end, and you’re the designer. Rely more on your own originality than on snazzy photo-editing features. As a graphic designer, don’t forget to cultivate your skills in drawing, sketching and painting and sometimes take a break from digital art to practice doodling. Remember, it is your creativity (and not Photoshop) that makes the design.

4.  Not Reading the Brief Carefully Enough: If you’re a newbie, you may be overconfident and care more about showing off than understanding your client’s needs. So even if you make something that is truly brilliant, it may be rejected because it wasn’t what the client wanted.
Quick Fix: Read the brief as many times it takes you to understand exactly what your client needs. Call him/her up and clarify if you need to. Graphic design is a part of the utilitarian arts and whatever you create has a target audience. So, keeping that in mind, underline the keywords and make a plan before you begin designing.

And whatever you do, don’t set unrealistic goals. Be grateful at how far you’ve come and be excited that there’s so much more to learn and create!  

What to Include in Your Graphic Design Portfolio

Whether you’re still a student, fresh out of college, or already have a job but want a better one, a graphic design portfolio is vital nowadays. Your portfolio can be your key to entering the industry, and your strongest tool in presenting yourself, your design work, and your goals to prospective collaborators. Your portfolio is more than your calling card. Think of this as one of your greatest design projects so far: You are designing a project that communicates who you are as a designer to the world. Companies and clients don’t only want to hear you talk about how great you are at graphic design — they want to see your designs, and they want to get a sense of what sets you apart as a designer! Overall, an effective portfolio should showcase “design solutions that demonstrate effective communication.”

The following are four tips we recommend when deciding what to include in your graphic design portfolio. No matter which aspect of the graphic design industry you have your heart set on, considering the following will help you stand out as you pursue your dream job.

Include Your Top Work at the Start and End

Your goal should be to wow the viewer of your portfolio from start to finish. A great way to do this is by starting with one of your strongest designs so it’s the first thing they see. If you’re going with an online portfolio, arrange your page/s so that your strongest example is readily available and catches their attention first. At the same time, you also want to save one of your top designs for the end as well.

This makes it so that the possible employer leaves your portfolio on a very positive note. All your work should impress the viewer, but your final piece should leave them thinking about your designs even after they’ve moved on to the next part of their hiring process. If you get called in for an interview, you’ll have a better chance of referencing one of these start/end pieces and the interviewer knowing which one you’re talking about.

Present a Short Video Reel

While their goal isn’t to see if you’re good at video editing, agents and hiring managers are usually impressed when a graphic design portfolio includes a video clip. Instead of having to click through all your design samples on your portfolio site or flip through physical pages, they can get a glimpse at your best work quickly and effortlessly via video.

Don’t worry; your video doesn’t have to be long at all. Since most hirers only spend a minute or two glancing through a portfolio, a minute or two is enough time to make sure they see your designs. Music is a very powerful tool, so add some music to give the person observing your work a more enjoyable experience.

Have Samples of Different Types of Graphic Design

What kind of work you show off obviously depends on your skills and interests as a graphic designer. But whether your goal is to work on logos and branding or you prefer user interface design, potential employers want to see flexibility.

For this reason, we recommend trying to have pieces that display your ability to orchestrate production elements (typography, geometric vector artwork, photo manipulation, infographics designs, motion graphics, and interactive print media) in service of clear and compelling communication. Doing so, you’ll demonstrate a wide range of abilities and familiarity with programs, making you attractive no matter what graphic design job you apply for.

Ask Others When Choosing Your Best Work

You definitely want to include the designs that best demonstrate your skills, creativity and experience. It can also help to take time to show your work to others and ask them which they think are the best. Creating an effective portfolio can be a tough process, but it’s worth taking the time to carefully vet and curate the pieces you choose to include. After all, your portfolio itself is a work of design, and with some care and artistry it can effectively communicate exactly the kind of designer you are to someone new to your work.

What does your graphic design portfolio say about you as a designer? Let us know in the comments below!

Graphic Design Tips for Creating a Killer App Icon

With over 50,000 apps and an additional 20,000 games submitted to the iTunes App Store every month, it’s never been more desirable to have an icon that not only grabs a casual browser’s attention but also communicates everything the app is about. After all, aside from a title, the icon is pretty much the only thing you’ve got to entice people to want to know more.

Whether you’re trying to make your own app stand out from the crowd or are looking to gain icon design work from publishers, there are definitely rights and wrongs to bear in mind when designing an icon.

Today, we’re looking at the right ways to make your icon … well, iconic.

Creating an Icon: The Process from Start to Finish

First up, you’ll want to take a look at two very important design guides: the one for iOS and the one for Android. While the design principles remain the same (and you’ll likely use the same iconography for both stores), there are subtle differences in the required technical specifications for your final images.

Ready to go? Then let’s move on to:

Scoping the Competition

We’re going to assume for a moment that your app has at least a little competition and that there are similar apps already out there. If your app is a one-of-a-kind original serving a niche that nobody else has capitalized on yet, well done!

Otherwise, take an impartial look at your competition and see which icons look most appealing as you scan down the app store. Don’t think about it too much, just note down the ones which particularly leap out at you. When you go back and re-examine the list with a more critical eye, we can guarantee that the ones you ignored went with the safe and obvious design choices, while the others did something a little different (though still clearly communicating the app’s function).

Don’t be afraid to take things in a different direction – as long as the app’s purpose is clearly defined through the icon, you can go as abstract as you like. A few other useful things to bear in mind:

Universal Appeal: Whatever imagery you use, make sure it won’t cause confusion (or worse, offense) in any other culture or country.

Focus on the Main Feature: Another to-do app that stands out from the masses is Swipes. Coupled with the name itself, this is an icon that conveys exactly what you can expect from the app:

So, if in doubt, focus on either a) the app’s selling point, or b) the app’s major function, and you’ll be starting on solid ground.

As for the design itself…

Settling on Color

Firstly, go monochrome. That’s right: design your icon in black and white first. Because if it still works without any color embellishment, you’ve almost definitely got a strong design.

When it comes to implementing some hues, however, it pays to look at the wider industry. With the exception of Snapchat (one of the very few ultra-popular apps to have a yellow icon) and a handful of greens, the overwhelming majority of apps fall into either the red or blue spectrums. Virtually zero inhabit the tertiary colors in between.

There’s nothing to say you can’t buck this trend with your own magenta-meets-bottle-green design, but know that countless millions of marketing dollars have been spent by the companies above in figuring out what consumers respond to best.

And lastly, the golden rule of icon design:

Trim the Fat

Once you’ve got a rough idea of how you want your icon to look and perhaps even a few drafts in the bag, it’s time to pare it down as much as you can before the message starts getting lost.

Got text in your icon? Try one letter only, a la the Vine, Tumblr or Facebook icons (which use the first letter of the app along with strong typography to get the brand across). There are a few apps that break with tradition, but on the whole it adds way too much visual noise and doesn’t lend itself well to scaling.

Going back to color, it’s optimal to stick to two complementary colors. The exception to this rule of thumb is with gaming apps, in which a multitude of colors (usually representing a sprite or scene in the game) is the norm.

In short: keep the design simple and the message clear.

Happy designing!

PS: As a closing tip, always work in vectors for easy, loss-free scaling. You’ll want to export your finished design in a number of different sizes, since a 120x120px logo scaled up rarely looks good!

How to Make Your Own Animated GIFs

No matter where you go online, you’re sure to come across an animated GIF. Animated GIFs are short, looping videos made up of several still shots that for a while were forgotten due to the advent of streaming video and Youtube. But recently they’ve made a comeback — thanks to social media and entertainment pages/apps.

Whether you want to give people a laugh or show off your work on a portfolio page, knowing how to make your own animated GIF is a particularly useful skill nowadays. Here you’ll read our roundup of several programs that make creating your own GIFs a breeze — plus tips on how you can get the most out of these digital creations.

Photoshop

It’s no surprise that the world’s best graphics editing program can also be used to make animated GIFs. Don’t worry, though: if you do not have Photoshop or access to Photoshop, there are a number of free software programs that will do similar. Yet Photoshop is an especially powerful choice. (Note that only some of the most recent versions of Photoshop include the animation features you need.)

After arranging your layers in the order you want them to be animated, it’s time to sequence them. Instructions for doing so differ, depending on your version of Photoshop. If you have CS5 and older, click Windows + Animation. If you have CS6 or Photoshop CC, open Windows + Timeline. For CC, you’ll have to also select Create Frame Animation from the drop-down menu.

From here, simply find the Make Frames From Layers option to set things like the duration of each frame, how many times the animated GIF should loop, etc. Now hit File and Save for Web to start sharing your GIF with others.

Other Animated GIF Creation Programs

Don’t worry if Photoshop isn’t an option! There are plenty of excellent programs out there that can help you create your own animated GIF. Many of them are even free to use and come with plenty of online tutorials. (Insider secret: online tutorials are tools that even the most experienced graphic deigners use to keep their skills up to date. Don’t be afraid to use this resource!)

If you already have a video file on your computer that’s ready to be turned into an animated GIF, Zamzar is a great choice. This web application takes your video and converts it into GIF format without the need of any other software. Giphy is another option for easily creating an animated GIF out of a small video on your disk.

To make GIFs out of individual images, we recommend GIMP. This free, open source image editor lets you take a collection of still images and turn them into a GIF. Other options include Giffing Tool for windows users and GIF Brewery for Mac owners. Both of these have some extra features you can pay for that give you more control over your animated GIF.

Other programs worth mentioning include Gifster, Giphy Capture, LiceCap, Gifcam, and Gifox.

Incorporating Animated GIFs Into Your Work

Here are some common practices for easily integrating your GIFs, for maximum effect:

Online Portfolio

As an aspiring graphic designer, your goal is to use those talents to make a living right out of college. Of course, there are also countless other graduates who will be applying to the same jobs as you. You’ll need something to help you stand out when recruiters begin checking out your online portfolio.

With animated GIFs, you can demonstrate your skills and show off work you’re proud of in a fresh and exciting way. We don’t recommend bombarding viewers with a bunch of GIFs on each page. However, a few of them combined with still images can help your page convey a modern, interactive feel.

Marketing

When you think of animated GIFs, perhaps several online memes come to mind that spread across your social media pages like wildfire. The fact is that GIFs are great for grabbing people’s attention as they scroll down Facebook or Tumblr — which means they’re perfect for marketing.

What better way to announce a new product than with a catchy animated GIF on your website or in an e-mail? Marketing companies like Bluefly have even done research on the impact of regular images vs. animated GIFs, and have found that GIFs pull in more revenue for advertised products.

Visual Instruction

It’s one thing to read instructions on how to bake a cake and another to actually watch someone do it. This is why Youtube is flooded with tutorial videos that show us how to do everything from boil an egg to dance like Michael Jackson. Even so, sometimes sticking a video in your work isn’t the best approach.

Instead, create a GIF animation showing a product illustration in motion. Whether you’re building a how-to section on your site or you want to show people how a product works, one or more animated GIFs can do the trick. You can also add small text descriptions below each individual GIF so readers have no trouble following your steps or understanding what you’re trying to convey

First time making a GIF, or are you a seasoned pro? Let us know how you use your GIFs in the comments below!

Interested in learning more about graphic design? NYFA’s graphic design program may be for you.

8 Graphic Design Conferences You Should Check Out in 2015

Graphic design can be something of a lonely profession. If you work for an agency, chances are you’ll be glued to a monitor with very few people coming over to distract the weird person in the corner who’s seemingly engrossed with their Wacom tablet.

This goes doubly so for when you’re a freelancer working in a home office, which applies to a good number of people working in graphic design.This is where design conferences come in. Whether you’ve already hit a professional level, or are still working up to it at graphic design school, it can be a refreshing change to get out to an event and interact with like-minded individuals. Here are 8 great conferences for the remained of this year that you should strongly consider attending.

Upcoming Graphic Design Conferences 2015

SCA 2015

When: 7-9 August 2015
Where: Los Angeles, California

Run by the ACM SIGGRAPH group (a loose acronym for the rather unwieldy name Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.) The organization is an international one and conducts events around the world, but the SCA event this August is the one graphic designers and animators should hit up to learn more about visual computer effects.

Layers

When: 8-10 June 2015
Where: San Francisco, California

Running parallel to – and complementing – the big WWDC Apple developer event, which takes place just a couple of blocks away, the new Layers event focuses more on design rather than development, which makes it ideally suited to graphic designers in the SF area. The number of great speakers they’ve assembled is looking to be a highlight of the event.

Midwest UX

When: 1-3 October 2015
Where: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This 3-day meeting of minds sees design professionals from around the country come together to explore current trends and future solutions in the industry. It’s specifically catered towards the UX crowd (for more info on that discipline, check out our guide to specific graphic design jobs.)

AIGA

When: 8-10 October 2015
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

Since as far back as 1914, the American Institute of Graphic Arts have been the authority association for all things graphic design related (and boasting over 25,000 members across the country.) You’ll have to become a member to attend the annual conference, but it’s well worth doing. This year, it’s being held in New Orleans, and is likely to be the biggest design event on anyone’s calendar.

International Graphic Design Expos

What Design Can Do

When: 21-22 May 2015
Where: Amsterdam, Holland

Along with numerous speaker sessions from some leading European design experts, including Stefan Sagmeister at the top of the billing, the What Design Can Do exposition has an international flavor and is welcoming to designers of any and every field.

TYPO

When: 21-23 May 2015
Where: Berlin, Germany

This is the big one. Few design events in Europe have as much of a provenance as TYPO, which attracts around 2,000 attendees every year, as well as a whole host of engaging speakers. If you have to choose between attending the Amsterdam event above and TYPO, note that the former is more geared towards the wider design community whereas the latter is aimed at typographers (as the name implies.)

TYPO has been so successful it spawned a sister conference in San Francisco this year, but the date for that has unfortunately passed at the time of writing.

OFFF

When: 28-30 May 2015
Where: Barcelona, Spain

Now in its fifteenth year, the OFFF conference is a superb collection of varied interactive workshops and activities, along with the usual assortment of engaging talks (and even a few performance events.) Well suited to both graphic and web designers, the event is also held at the Design Museum of Barcelona which is worth traveling to see in its own right.

London Design Festival

When: 19-27 September 2015
Where: London, England

The main event for those in the UK or designers willing to travel for it, as many have done since its debut in 2003. The London Design Festival really is a festival more so than an exposition, with over 300 separate events, exhibitions, and galleries dotted around the city under the same collective banner.

Websites for Graphic Design Inspiration

Graphic design has the distinction of being a professional discipline that requires both technical prowess and a large amount of creative juice. While the intricacies and skills required to be a good designer can be learned at graphic design school, nobody is immune from periods in which their creative well runs dry.

The question is, how do you best get those creative juices flowing once again?

Luckily, there are more than a few useful resources online which can help inspire new ideas and push you to greater heights. Whether you design websites, logos, work with typography, or design packaging, scroll on to discover…

The Best Websites for Graphic Design Inspiration

While all of the following are well worth checking out, we’ve categorized them by a few different fields to further aid your inspiration. First up:

Websites for Graphic Web Designers

The Inspiration Grid – Adored by both designers and even non-designers alike, The Inspiration Grid is a delight to flick through due to the many varied and creative images that are hosted there. Nice, clean, and easily searchable by category, this is a well of inspiration no designer should be without.

Ideabook – The best practices of web design, and the software used to execute it, is perpetually changing; so much so that even the most experienced designer needs to continually keep his or her learning up to date. For that, there’s Ideabook; a great source of free design tutorials.

Swissmiss – Run by talented New York designer Tina Roth, this design blog provides regular highlights of great design of all flavors from around the world. Blog posts are short and sweet, giving you more inspiration and less noise.

Wabbaly – A long-running blog which acts as an amalgamation of all of the above; fantastic examples of graphic design, great articles discussing the craft, and plenty of tutorials to help you emulate it all.

Information is Beautiful – The famous brainchild of David McCandless. If you haven’t already seen this frequently updated collection of stunning data visualizations, you’re missing out on a big dose of design inspiration.

Canva – Canva is a graphic design tool aiming to teach the graphic design to the world, and regularly publishes fresh and useful content for both beginnings and seasoned graphic designers.

Websites for Logo Designers

Brand New – When a corporate logo gets a face-lift, the Brand New blog will be there waiting to dissect the results – both good and bad – with an expert eye. This is essential reading for logo designers looking to learn from design done well (and not so well).

Logolitic – A very comprehensive (and neatly categorized) blog covering logo design practices and the wider industry. The advice and tutorial posts are aimed towards the beginner to semi-pro logo designer, so if you’re just starting out, this is the one for you.

Logo Design Love – A superb collection of spotlight posts which shines a light on notable logo designers, their works, and the fascinating histories behind some iconic logos.

Brands of the World – According to the site itself, it’s the world’s biggest collection of free vector logos, giving your work an added professional flair with less hassle and no cost.

Websites for Typographers

TypeInspire – As the name suggests, TypeInspire is a treasure trove of gorgeous typography and a good port of call for generating new ideas when you’re stuck in a rut.

Type Everything – A Tumblr blog that features some of the best typography we’ve every come across, all in one place. There are many categories to flick through; from animated type gifs, graffiti, monograms, hand drawn, and beyond (scroll to the bottom to check these out.)

Typedia – “A mix between IMDb and Wikipedia, just for type.” So goes the site description of Typedia, and it’s pretty apt. It is a community resource which anyone can get behind, and a very useful portal for those who don’t know where to start with typography.

Playtype – A digital type agency in Denmark. Even just browsing through the store is enough to get the ideas flowing.

 

Six Best Options For Free Graphic Design And Animation Software

Creating 3D, manipulatable models without the need to get arms-deep in clay is an attractive idea. Forking over $1,500 every year for a subscription to Autodesk Maya, however, is not.

Given that the price range for professional-grade modeling suites can be eye watering, many amateurs, and even professionals, find themselves looking for free 3D modeling software alternatives. Luckily, there are more than a few free and open source options available. Even with the lack of a price tag, many of these are up there with the best.

If you’re a graphic design school student or attend animation school, check out the below options and we can guarantee you’ll find something that fits your needs.

Free 3D Modeling Software: 10 of the Best

1. K-3D

A mercifully stripped-back, no-nonse piece of software that doesn’t skimp on features. K-3D is centered around a plug-in driven procedural engine for handling polygonal modeling and animation, with one of the most brilliant and unique benefits being the ability to mirror the object you’re working on; add curves and NURBS to one half, and the other half with follow suit with a seamless join in the middle, creating a fully manipulable subdivision surface.

Also comes with support for RenderMan.

2. 3DCrafter

Amabilis have put out a whole suite of weird and wonderful tools over the years, and 3DCrafter is perhaps the best and most polished among them.

The beauty of this free 3D modeling software is that it can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, ranging between drag-and-drop and fully customizable sculpting of intricate models from the ground up. The interface is a charm to use and extremely intuitive.

3. Blender

One of the most recognizable names on this list, Blender is incredibly popular due to its versatility. Everything from animation and video games modeling to 3D applications can be created, and graphic designers will love the simulated visual effects that can be implemented to a project effortlessly. It’s free and very much open source, with much of the development being driven by the lively Blender community.

Features within Blender include 3D modeling, texturing, particle simulation, UV unwrapping, skinning and rigging, animation, liquid and smoke simulation.

4. POV-Ray

Vision Raytracer, more popularly referred to as POV-Ray, is an entirely free and open source ray tracing software available for pretty much any platform you can name. It has been in development, in one form or another, for over thirty years and has even been used on the International Space Station. To boot, it’s longevity as a program means that there is a huge amount of 3rd party support for the software.

Features Turing-complete scene description language (SDL), a library of ready-made objects, textures and scenes, several kinds of light sources and atmospheric effects, surface patterns and radiosity. This one is highly recommended for graphic designers in particular given the impressive results that can be achieved with it.

5. Google SketchUp

Quickly becoming common place within the modeling and graphic design community, Google’s SketchUp is geared towards open-ended sharing. Either working from scratch or by using a ton of free, pre-built objects, it’s a great tool for projects that will be worked on and shared between multiple team members. While it has something of a learning curve for beginners, the amount of support and tutorials available is unparalleled, and it also boasts an incredibly large and active community base around the globe.

6. Art of Illusion

Highly recommended for beginners or traditional graphic designers who only want to model occasionally, Art of Illusion offers an intuitive user interface and is stripped back of any distractions. At the same time, it does offer a few bells and whistles that aren’t prevalent in the other software listed on this page; the free access to online repositories, a live chat function which lets you tap straight into the fantastic AoI support community and an array of view modes.

Other features which come as standard include: Boolean operating; wireframe animation (complete with weight systems, constraints and reversed kinetics), texture mapping by face or vertex, fully customizable light refraction and scattering.

Know of any other free 3D Modeling Software we should be checking out? Don’t hesitate to share with the group via the comments below!

Graphic Design: Jobs, Salaries and Career Paths

There are very few fields as diverse as graphic design, an industry in which no single role is clear cut and jobs often overlap (even with work that isn’t graphic design related).

That’s exactly what you’ll find in our below list of graphic design jobs which we hope will help demystify some of the terms and provide a little bit of guidance as to how to get a graphic design job (as well as what kind of salary to expect once you do).

But it bears repeating: unlike our previous job glossary lists (such as the guides to jobs in film and broadcast journalism), rarely are two individual graphic design jobs alike and there’s a lot of crossover between duties. As such, average salaries are given as very rough rules of thumb only.

We’ve also provided an approximate difficulty scale which indicates not the technical requirements of the job, but how difficult it is to get full time, paid work. Without further ado…

Jobs in Graphic Design: Average Salary & Career Paths

Print Designer

The debate continues to rage as to whether designing for print is a dying art form (and it is true that jobs in this sector have diminished), but creating artwork that is intended solely for printed materials is still in demand. It’s a highly technical field, requiring in-depth knowledge of both traditional print techniques and their integration with contemporary digital advancements.

Print Designer Career Path: While ‘print designer’ is a blanket term covering a wide number of subsets (such as package designer below), those looking to acquire print design jobs are nearly always required to have attended graphic design school beforehand. Proficiency in the Adobe suit and particularly InDesign Quark Xpress are also essential before hitting the classifieds.

Pros: There’s a recognizable feeling of merit to work solely for print these days, and once you’ve mastered the art, you can tackle pretty much any job in the industry. Regular, 9 to 5 hours are also common.

Cons: The number of print jobs is dwindling rapidly – those working for book, newspaper and periodicals can expect a 16% decrease in jobs between 2012 and 2022 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Difficulty: 7/10

Print Designer Salary: The median average is $44,000, but the mean average is useless for print design salaries given the variance across the industry.

Web Designer

Unlike a print designer, a web designer deals specifically in graphic elements intended for viewing on a desktop or mobile device. Given the hugely varied nature of the work that falls into this category, it’s a broad term that covers a large swathe of the industry and is often conflated with web development; for the purposes of this entry, we’re going to focus specifically on graphic web design rather than coding.

Web Designer Career Path: While graphic design school and related qualifications can offer a huge step up, a lot of web designers are self-taught and build up their portfolios gradually to score further work. As above, the ability to also code in a variety of language is massively beneficial.

Pros: A reasonable degree of creative control, plus opportunities to work either on a freelance basis or salaried depending on your preference.

Cons: It’s an extremely saturated market, so competition is high while the pay is low for what is actually a very skilled job.

Difficulty: 4/10

Web Designer Salary: Anywhere between $30,000 to $70,000 (or more) depending on coding proficiency, location, seniority, freelance or salaried… the list goes on.

Logo Designer

To a non-graphic designer, it often sounds unrealistic that someone can make most (if not all) of their income through designing logos for companies, but there is a small yet lucrative niche in this area.

Logo Designer Career Path: Logo design is something many graphic designers will undertake from time to time, but to do it full time one should seek employment from an agency that is dedicated in offering this service. A good portfolio and prior experience will be necessary to get through the door.

Pros: Working at the top of the field, the rewards can be colossal. Extensive, all-expenses paid travel can be a perk when working with global, corporate clients.

Cons: It’s not the most varied graphic design job in the world.

Difficulty: 9/10 (for full-time, high paying logo design work)

Logo Designer Salary: About on par with the rest of the industry (i.e. $45,000 on average for junior roles), but some conglomerates offer multi-million dollar rebranding contracts to small teams. For instance, the recent British Petroleum company re-branding cost over $200,000,000 to create.

Package Designer

While the digital age is arguably hampering print design, there’s one job within that industry that is practically immune from downturn: people will always need products, and products will always need packaging.

To boot, we’re not likely to ever see a time in which everything is put into generic gray boxes, so the demand for talented designers to create an alluring and unique package design is usually quite high.

Package Designer Career Path: Much the same as any other type of graphic designer, though a knowledge of 3D modeling is highly preferential.

Pros: You’ll see your good work everywhere…

Cons: … and nobody will know it was you.

Difficulty: 7/10

Package Designer Salary: A shade more than the industry-wide average at $47k (compared to $40k-$44k for graphic designers across all fields).

Advertising Designer

Either working freelance via a marketing agency or in a salaried position for a company, advertising designers work closely with copywriters, art directors and other creative personnel to bring an advertising campaign to life (and according to a client’s brief).

Advertising Designer Career Path: Those working in an advertising or marketing environment typically start off from junior positions or internships within an agency before working up the career ladder. Naturally, time spent at graphic design school accelerates this process though it’s not unheard of for, say, a copywriter within a marketing company to learn on the job.

Pros: Fairly stable work and no two days are usually the same.

Cons: You’ll often find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place – the rock being nightmare clients, and the hard place being their impossible demands.

Difficulty: 6/10

Advertising Designer Salary: Generally in line with the industry-wide salary for graphic designers across all fields ($40k to $44k), but it’s a very rough estimate given that many advertising designers work freelance.

Branding Designer

With a lot of crossover with advertising design and incorporating logo design (and sometimes packaging), branding designers have a huge degree of responsibility given that they’re in charge of how a brand is perceived by the public. If the role doesn’t also govern advertising itself, the branding designer will also typically assume those duties also.

Branding Designer Career Path: Those with senior branding positions often start off their careers as graphic designers within a marketing environment, working towards the position over the course of many years. Graphic design school is almost mandatory, and a strong knowledge of best marketing/communication practices beneficial.

Pros: The salary for a brand designer reflects the level of seniority, and the satisfaction of a branding job well done can be exhilarating.

Cons: As with advertising, if you’re not working for one specific company you can often find yourself dealing with less-than-desirable clients. You’ll also find yourself having to repeatedly explain to people why your job is more important and nuanced than they make out.

Difficulty: 8/10

Branding Designer Salary: This is one that can really vary depending on location and specific circumstance, but generally a brand identity designer can expect $50,000 in a salaried position.

User Interface Designer

The need for user interface designers is becoming increasingly popular in recent times, with companies willing to pay top dollar for someone who is able to make the front-end of their website, app, or software look aesthetically pleasing and functional. This shouldn’t be confused with the “user experience designer,” although there is some crossover, and in some companies the same role is held by the same person.

UI Designer Career Path: Mainly portfolio driven, with UI designers usually working freelance on a variety of projects before falling into a more permanent role. It’s not uncommon for UI designers to have a strong background in coding as well as digital graphic design techniques.

Pros: If you’re the kind of graphic designer who can spend hours focusing on a single detail and how it might impact the end user, this is definitely the job for you. It’s one of the higher paying graphic design roles currently in the industry, too.

Cons: Having to explain to others the difference between UI and UX.

Difficulty: 10/10

User Interface Designer Salary: A substantial amount more than graphic designers of other fields (depending on seniority), with UI designer salaries ranging between $60,000 and $90,000 per year.

How to Make a (Good) Kinetic Typography Animation Video

Kinetic typography is a fantastically engaging way of delivering text information in a visual way. It’s a great marketing vehicle for those looking to spread a heavy message without losing their audience, and is equally as good simply for entertaining the viewer – particularly with the advent of YouTube, there have been so many great examples of kinetic typography that it’s become something of an artform.

Rendering text in an appealing manner is a fundamental skill taught at graphic design school, and there are a lot of resources out there to get you started with the animation aspect. But putting technical factors aside, what makes for an aesthetically pleasing kinetic typography animation that stands a chance of going viral?

The Key Ingredients for a Great Kinetic Typography Animation

  • Don’t Go Over Three Minutes. This is a real biggie – no matter how excellent you think your material is shaping up, your audience’s mind will wander around this point (and all those hours you spend putting into the superfluous two minutes will be wasted). Keep it tight and concise, and your viewers will love you for it.
  • Don’t Use A Weak Soundtrack. Another huge mistake that can kill an otherwise good animation is using an audio file with a terrible bitrate, distortion or other issues. Although kinetic typography can be seen as primarily a visual media, it’s very much an aural one, too.
  • Render The Exported Video on the Highest Settings. Again, it’s all about not selling yourself short – why bother spending hours on a crisp-looking typography that would get you accepted into animation school, only to stick it on YouTube in a pixelated 320p resolution?
  • Triple-Check for Typos. This one sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how often we see excellent kinetic typography laden with spelling (and grammatical) errors. It can ruin the experience for an eagle-eyed viewer, and it’s very difficult to go back and correct these, so be sure to triple check for typos.

These four major guidelines should stand you in good stead and get you most of the way there, but next we’ll take a look at some nuanced aspects of kinectic typography when executed brilliantly…

… and dissect some poorer examples, too.

Picking Workable Audio

Having good sound quality is key, but that isn’t the be-all and end-all of an audio track that will look good when animated.

Let’s assume you’re looking to take some movie dialogue and give it the kinetic typography treatment purely for entertainment purposes (a great place to start out).

What you should be looking for is a scene that isn’t too “messy”, with numerous actors talking at once or overlapping, a big soundtrack detracting from the spoken words or abrasive sound effects that will be tricky to represent in animated form.

While there’re no strict laws here, you’ll probably want to start out with just a one or two actors speaking at a fairly even rate (more on pacing in a bit). If the script itself is instantly recognizable and/or iconic, even better – a superb example from Breaking Bad:

Do set aside some time to fiddle with the audio track in the editing suite before you begin animating to get the best out of the finished product; a little time spent tweaking the EQ and lowering any ambient noise that may be in the clip so that the words shine out can pay dividends.

Working in the Third Dimension

Check out this kinetic typography video from Zombieland (a movie which actually employs kinetic typography during the scene itself):

You’ll notice how – particularly towards the end – the animator employed back and forth motion with the type and graphics rather than just scrolling text along the X and Y axes.

One of the great benefits of the medium is that you’ve got an infinite canvas to work with, so do make good use of it in all three dimensions – it’s a lot more engaging to see the ‘camera’ move through the frame, especially since this technique makes it hard to predict which direction the font will start moving in.

The Art of Pacing

In the above two examples, it’s clear that the animators paid a great deal of attention to the pacing of the script; sticking with some words or lines longer than others, and dramatically speeding up or slowing down at points.

How you approach this depends hugely on the audio you’re working with, of course, and more often than not you just have to go with your gut as to what feels ‘right’.

That said, the best way to demonstrate the importace of pacing is perhaps to look at a poor example. This one comes from the movie Inception:

Hit Them With a Surprise

Much like any visual medium, throwing in the odd curveball or twist can be a very effective way of leaving an impression on your audience. This is especially true of kinetic typography, which is, at its heart, simply text moving around a screen.

Check out this delightful animated clip from The Social Network, which not only incorporates a lot of the above advice, but features a delightful twist at the end: 

The Best Way to Make a Killer Kinectic Typography Video? Practice!

Your first few videos are likely to be very rigid and not particularly mindblowing, but that’s very much to be expected. The only way to better yourself is to have fun playing around and discovering what works and what doesn’t – by the same token, feel free to contravene every piece of advice offered above!

There are already a lot of tired clichés when it comes to typography, so there’s nothing wrong with trying to stand out from the crowd by experimenting. To demonstrate this in action, we’ll finish off with this marvelous Pulp Fiction clip in which the animator has even managed to incorporate video into the mix: